STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State junior guard Iverson Molinar scored a career-high 26 points, but it was the visiting Minnesota Golden Gophers who came away with an 81-76 win Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum.
With the scored tied 76-76, the Gophers (7-0) took a 79-76 lead with 18 seconds left on a 3-pointer by senior guard Payton Willis. He then grabbed a defensive rebound on the Bulldogs’ (6-2) next possession and made a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.
Molinar scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half and added six assists and five rebounds to his performance. Graduate forward Garrison Brooks was the only other Bulldog to score in double figures. He finished with 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
As a team, MSU shot 28-for-64 (43.8%) from the field and 9-for-29 (31%) from 3-point range. The Bulldogs made 11 of their 13 free throws (84.6%).
Minnesota shot 29-for-59 (49.2%), including 12-for-29 (41.4%) on 3-pointers, and 11-for-13 (84.6%) from the free-throw line.
All five Minnesota starters scored in double figures. Willis led the squad with 24 points and seven assists, while sophomore forward Jamison Battle scored 20 points.
Minnesota jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead with 15:52 left in the first half, but MSU used a 7-0 run and a 9-0 run to trim the deficit to 23-20 with 6:29 left. The Bulldogs came as close as two points but trailed the entire first half.
Brooks hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a 35-32 game at the halftime break.
The Bulldogs made it 35-34 to begin the second half, but Minnesota managed to build its largest lead of 14 points at 60-46 with 12:37 to play thanks to three 3-pointers from Battle and another from Willis.
MSU made it 60-52 when Molinar hit a pair of free throws, but back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guard E.J. Stephens pushed Minnesota’s lead back to 14 points with 9:47 left. The Bulldogs used a 12-2 run to tie the game at 76-76 with 41 seconds left before Willis made the final five points of the game to secure the win for the Gophers.
The Bulldogs will be back in action next Saturday when they play Colorado State at 1 p.m. CT inside Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. The game will be televised by ESPNU.